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How does Sparklehorse do it?
Old 12th September 2013
  #1
Gear Head
 

How does Sparklehorse do it?

OK, I know there are several different reasons why the production of a Sparklehorse song sounds so good. The main thing I want to know is the effects put on the vocals (it seems to be similar on a lot of the songs). I also would like to know about other tricks they do! Is there anyone also out there who appreciates this music as much as me? Is there anything else like it?
Old 12th September 2013
  #2
Gear Head
 

"On 'Good Morning Spider', in particular, some of Linkous' prettiest melodies are beaten up and corroded by endless dissonant interruptions - radio static, voicemail messages, cacophonous feedback. Like a painter angrily slashing a pure canvas, Linkous' instinct was to destroy. "
Read more at Why Mark Linkous Was A Genius | The latest music blogs, free MP3s, best new bands, music videos, movie trailers and news analysis
Old 12th September 2013
  #3
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Electric Sugar's Avatar
I love the Sparklehorse production. It's a sound I chase a lot.

There's a lot of distortion, over-compression, and lo-fi elements. Try using harmonica mics, crappy little tape recorder mics, run things through a 4-track, run things thrugh guitar amps...

He seems to crush and distort certain elements of the mix and leave other elements clean.
Old 12th September 2013
  #4
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Electric Sugar's Avatar
Similar techniques are also employed by Eels and Grandaddy (particularly their early stuff).

All three bands are mainly just one person doing most of it themselves with other musicians doing the odd bit here and there. They all have that combination of fairly straightforward songs with production that mixes very distorted/broken/dirty sounds with clean sounds. I bloody love it.
Old 14th September 2013
  #5
Gear Head
 

I didnt know there were "harmonica mics", interesting. Thank you for the great comments! Ive been inspired to use cell phone mics, an old camcorder mic, and a mic that I made for a school project.

It also seems like he did overdubs the vocals a lot. I think it all just involves a hell of a lot of tinkering and experience.

I always did put Sparklehorse and Grandaddy in the same category. They even use a lot of the same instruments/virtual instruments. Mercury Rev is another band that comes to mind.
Old 14th September 2013
  #6
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robstercraw's Avatar
 

did a similar project a while back. on one of the songs, after mixing we played it thru the internal speaker on the mac, mic'd it up and recorded that. it was pretty cool.
Old 14th September 2013
  #7
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Electric Sugar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdvr4 View Post
I didnt know there were "harmonica mics", interesting. Thank you for the great comments! Ive been inspired to use cell phone mics, an old camcorder mic, and a mic that I made for a school project.
Shure Green Bullet is the usual one, but I got a cheap Superlux version from Thomann and it works great.

I have a collection of mics I got from charity shops/Ebay etc, that each cost no more than £3. They sound pretty awful but are really useful for interesting vocal sounds a-la Sparklehorse.

You could get these kinds of sounds (or close) using plug-ins, but it's far more fun getting the sound you want right away in the recording. Plus you end up with loads of cool **** lying round your studio that looks really esoteric and interesting.
Old 14th September 2013
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric Sugar View Post
You could get these kinds of sounds (or close) using plug-ins.
What are some plug-ins or type of plug-ins? I have fiddle around on several projects on trying to get a sparklehorse sound but have never ended up truly happy.
Old 15th September 2013
  #9
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Electric Sugar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdvr4 View Post
What are some plug-ins or type of plug-ins? I have fiddle around on several projects on trying to get a sparklehorse sound but have never ended up truly happy.
Distortion, EQ, Tape and speaker sims.

Camel Crusher is a good (free) place to start for distortion. If you're happy to spend money then get Soundtoys Decapitator, it's quite remarkable.

TB Reelbus and Ferox are good for tape sims. I use the old (free) version of Ferox a lot for this kind of thing,you can make things sound really small and tinny.

Rough Rider is a great free compressor that is really extreme, smashes the **** out of everything it comes into contact with.

Also try a free drum machine VSTi called Rhythmus. Great for Sparklehorse esque drum sounds.

Check out this song I did, I guess it's pretty Sparklehorse-esque sonically:
Paris Syndrome | Stephen James Buckley
Old 15th September 2013
  #10
Gear Head
 

I am really low on funds at the moment so I appreciate the recommended free plugins. I will let you know what I think of them and maybe post a song.

The song you posted was great! I listened to a few others as well, one reminded me of Nick Drake. You have one new fan. I wish a can afford a 4-track... one day.

What did you use for the strings?
Old 15th September 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
Reading this thread I just looked mark Linkous up. There are lots of mentions of how he was born to a coal mining family in Arlington VA.

I live in Arlington va and I can say unequivocally that there are no coal mines or coal miners. It's across the river from Washington, D.C. , five minutes or less from the White House. The idea of "Coal mining" in Arlington is absurd

Just could not resist.
Old 15th September 2013
  #12
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mortimersnerdy's Avatar
 

Yeah, if you're lucky there might be an "Arlington, WV" with coal mines.


ps. Izotope's "Vinyl" can do some neat stuff, and it's free.
Old 17th September 2013
  #13
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Electric Sugar's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdvr4 View Post
I am really low on funds at the moment so I appreciate the recommended free plugins. I will let you know what I think of them and maybe post a song.

The song you posted was great! I listened to a few others as well, one reminded me of Nick Drake. You have one new fan. I wish a can afford a 4-track... one day.

What did you use for the strings?
For my own music, I always use a mellotron emulator for strings. I don't want them to sound real, I want them to sound like a mellotron! I have 3,all of them free. Redtron, Tapetronic, and one more whose name I can't remember. I like to layer them up, and record them to cassette and back, just to make them sound a bit more "real".

Mellotron sounds are used heavily with the Sparklehorse stuff. It would be also worth investing in a glockenspiel. I got one off eBay for about £10. Comes in handy for that "old childhood recordings" vibe that Sparklehorse/Eels have.
Old 27th May 2015
  #14
Gear Head
 

Sparklehorse cover.

I know this is a long time since my original post but I created a Sparklehorse cover of "Mountains" to share: https://soundcloud.com/bumblebeecrow...klehorse-cover . Also, please check out my original songs at: https://soundcloud.com/bumblebeecrownking
Old 22nd February 2018
  #15
Mark Linkous was born in Arlington, VA, but grew up with his grandparents in a poor Appalachian town in southern Virginia, near Charlottesville. this piece is a good tribute to him. The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous | Pitchfork

He is one of my favorite musicians and I wish he was still around. It's a Wonderful Life is a huge source of inspiration for me - I recently played a Mellotron and heard those flutes and violins for myself. I was in awe. it is such beautiful and strange music. i feel like he is underrated
Old 18th October 2018
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdvr4 View Post
I know this is a long time since my original post but I created a Sparklehorse cover of "Mountains" to share: Mountains (Sparklehorse Cover) by Bumble Bee Crown King | Free Listening on SoundCloud . Also, please check out my original songs at: Bumble Bee Crown King | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Your cover is EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!
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